Neil Gaiman and the New Future of Old Media

I’m not gonna lie, but upon reading the prompt for this week, my first thought was that I had to write about Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his Hit RECord collaborative company, but the more I thought about it, the less it worked. Maybe one day I’ll get to write about it.

So I read the list again, and was back on the thought train as soon as I saw Neil Gaiman’s name. For those who don’t know, Gaiman is the author of many novels, comics, and screenplays, including American Gods, Coraline, Stardust, and the best-selling Sandman series. Besides his incredible ability to construct sentences (his prose is generally astounding), he’s married to musician Amanda Palmer, formerly of the Dresden Dolls.

All that being said, I doubt that many people at Bucknell have read a large amount of his work, so here’s why he’s my pick for Interesting Person: he’s incredibly thoughtful, and he’s been around for awhile. As an author whose first professional publication was in 1984, Gaiman is in a fairly unique position- he achieved his first success shortly before the Internet came along to change the way that we consume media. Now, there are a great many people in that position; that’s why people like to say that the music industry is –oh, the melodrama- collapsing.

However, Gaiman is known for taking familiar story elements within genres and deconstructing them to make a whole new type of story- one that feels familiar, but continually has the reader looking for pieces. That same critical eye has led him to adopt technology in sporadic, creative ways (he once got bored so he started writing poetry on twitter, and it was GOOD). It seems like a topic that’s played out, but his understanding of the publishing industry and the fact that he was able to take risks brings a refreshing take on a similar tale of artists getting used to the Internet. He says it best himself, as he summarized what it’s been like:

Also interesting is how willing he is to push the boundaries of the relationships between the different media that he’s involved in- for example, he and his musician wife recently funded a tour together using kickstarter, to perform old and new material as a combination of music, poetry, spoken word, and “crowdsourced” musicians.

On the amount of fact and fiction in his work:

“I’ve never been convinced that there’s such a wonderfully clear-cut dichotomy between the two things. When you start writing, you’re in a profession which involves making stuff up and inventing things. You’re making up people, you’re making up places, you’re talking about things that manifestly aren’t true… and if you’re doing it right, you’re using all of these fictions… to say true things.”

First and foremost, Gaiman is an author, but after that, he comes across as a true lover of culture. Watching him discuss pop culture and communication is fascinating because, at his core, it’s actually his passion. His success comes from his ability to understand how people work, and how they interact with media.

One more quick clip:

If you have the hour to watch his incredibly inspiration graduation speech, I promise that it’s worth  your time.

Empowering disadvantaged children through technology

In an academic environment such as Bucknell, it is easy to get sucked into the competitive nature of working hard in order to have a successful career in the future. What is often lost is the importance of helping those less fortunate then you are. I picked Nicholas Negroponte as a person of interest because I thought his non-profit organization was very inspiring. After graduating MIT with a degree in architecture, he was most interested in computers because he saw computers as a mixture of art and science. Negroponte was best known, during his career, for founding and directing MIT’s Media Lab. While his professional career is very impressive, I thought he was interesting because he took his skills in the field of computers and started a non-profit organization.

After Nicholas Negroponte established his success, he wanted to do something more meaningful to impact the future generations. He wanted to take advantage of all of his connections through the Media Lab in order to bring computers to children in developing countries. He thought that one of the most necessary tools for children to learn hands on was to teach them programming. The program, One Laptop per Child, was designed to give one laptop to every student who was a child in as many developing countries as the organization could reach. The organization is manufacturing a laptop called the XO, which is a wireless Internet-enabled pedal-powered computer costing about $100. It originally started in a school in Cambodia that was built and connected to the internet by Negroponte and his son. This program has been very successful and continues to spread throughout many countries as political leaders also share the importance of computers for children.

I found Nicholas Negroponte to be especially interesting to me because I worked for a  non profit last summer focused on helping children. I believe that One Laptop per Child is helping bridge the educational differences between children in developing countries and children in the developed countries. I think Negroponte would be an amazing person to bring to campus because his character and passion will help people reevaluate what is important to them. I think he would show Bucknell students through his passion, the importance of investing in education for children in developing countries and finding a sense of importance and purpose through giving back. I think students of all major will be interested in Negroponte’s talk and I think it will have the ability to open up students’ mind to look at the bigger picture of life.

This is a link to Nicholas Negroponte’s talk about One Laptop per Child on Ted Talks.

Negroponte on One Laptop

Shifting away from oil: A move toward a sustainable future

Amory Lovins is one of the world’s leading authorities on energy. In particular, he is an expert in regards to its efficient use and sustainable supply and would deliver a captivating sustainability-focused talk. I am an adamant supporter of all areas of sustainability and what can be done to make the world a “greener” place. Global warming is happening now. The effects are evident not only in the obscure places of the world like the North and South Pole but even here in the United States. Drastic storm systems and high off-season temperatures are becoming more and more frequent. My home town was just wiped out by Hurricane Sandy and it will take years to rebuild all that was lost. I am very close to these issues and I am always looking to raise more awareness.

As the vice president of the Environmental Club here at Bucknell, I am always looking for ways to make our campus more green. Our initiatives include promoting people to conserve water, use less electricity, recycle, etc. Lately we have been hoping to enlist some more outside help because it gets to a point that our badgering of people as they walk through the LC Mall just doesn’t work anymore. Bucknell could really use the advice of Amory Lovins to raise awareness on the issues of the dependence of the United States on oil.

In his talk, “A 50 Year Plan for Energy,” Lovins drives home the point that we must leave oil before it leaves us. Not only should we start saving electricity, but we should also be making it differently. This is a talk that describes the steps that can be taken to allow the United States to no longer be dependent on oil and coal by 2050. When I first heard him suggest that figure, I was pretty apprehensive to believe that we could change that quickly. I still think Lovins is a little too naïve in how simple he believes this challenge to be, however, his proposals have a lot of possibilities. His talk outlines the sectors in the United States that need to change. He also discusses the solutions, but directs his listeners to read his book Reinventing Fire to get the full details of all the suggested solutions. Perhaps if we were able to get Lovins to speak at Bucknell, we could also have him do a book signing after the talk. That will promote more people to read his book prior to the talk and simultaneously spread more awareness. Just remember that peak oil is around the corner and more people should really be listening the ideas of Amory Lovins!